Bernard Ebbers
Louis Lanzano  /  AP file
Former CEO of WorldCom Bernard Ebbers is set to begin a 25-year prison sentence Tuesday for his part in that company’s $11 billion accounting fraud.
updated 9/26/2006 2:51:15 PM ET 2006-09-26T18:51:15

Former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers drove through the gates of a federal prison Tuesday to begin a 25-year sentence for his role in the $11 billion accounting fraud that toppled a company he built from a tiny telecommunications firm to an industry giant.

Behind the wheel of a Mercedes he had driven from his home, Ebbers pulled the bill of his cap down, shielding his face from reporters and photographers, as he drove into the prison.

Ebbers left his upscale, brick-and-stucco home in a gated community in the Jackson suburb of Ridgeland about 9 a.m. EDT and arrived shortly after 2 p.m. at Oakdale.

At his home on Monday, he had refused to answer any questions and told an Associated Press reporter to leave.

“You’re not even supposed to be on this property,” said Ebbers, 65, who answered the door wearing a light blue golf shirt and blue jeans.

Ebbers walked outside, with a cigar in his mouth, to watch the reporter leave his property.

Ebbers, a former high school basketball coach, took a small telecommunications firm and transformed it into an industry giant before the Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom collapsed in bankruptcy in 2002.

“My overall sense of it is it’s just a sad day,” said Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman, whose city had to deal with the economic fallout of the scandal. “The collapse of WorldCom was a tragic ending to what had been a fabulous story. So I think the overwhelming emotion continues to be great sadness and disappointment.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones of New York told Ebbers during a sentencing hearing in July 2005 that she would recommend Ebbers be assigned to the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Facility — about 50 miles northwest of Jackson — to make it easier for his family to visit him. But the recommendation was not followed.

“It’s a decision of the (prison) bureau,” said Mike Truman, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ebbers’ conviction and sentence last month. His attorney has said they will continue to appeal, but he has few options, said Ron Rychlak, associate dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

“I understand they’re going to ask the 2nd Circuit to reconsider the case on whole. Three judges heard the case against him originally and he could ask all the judges on the court to hear the case,” Rychlak said. “It’s pretty rare. The other thing would be to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. That also is a very rarely granted situation.”

Ebbers’ attorney, Reid Weingarten, did not immediately respond to a message left at his Washington office on Monday.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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